Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Roundup ban looms again and could cost farmers €30m

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

 A BAN on glyphosate could cost Irish tillage farmers €30m a year in lost cereal yields.

UCD Professor Jimmy Burke warned a ban would be another “hammer blow” for the struggling tillage sector.

The tillage expert estimates the likely cost if the herbicide was banned could amount to €30m annually but costs could rise as weeds become more difficult to control.

The stark figure comes as the Eu­ropean Union warned it must have member states’ backing to extend the licence for herbicide glyphosate which is a key active ingredient in Monsan­to’s weedkiller Roundup.

EU Health and Food Safety Com­missioner Vytenis Andriukaitis stated the licensing of glyphosate was the “shared responsibility” of national governments.

He added that the Commission must have sufficient support from the bloc’s 28 member states to renew the herbicide’s licence.

A final decision on reissuing the licence for glyphosate is due to be taken by the end of this year.

The Irish government supports the reauthorisation, which was proposed by the bloc’s health commissioner in May.

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Professor Burke said glyphosate was used extensively in Ireland, not just in tillage, but also grassland reseeding and the garden sector.

“The use of glyphosate before har­vest plays a crucial role in improving the harvesting process by helping ripen the crop, control weeds and to curb the emergence of weeds in the following season.

“Cereal yields would suffer in the short term while in the longer term production costs would increase as farmers grappled with the control of problem weeds which would certainly become more difficult to control in subsequent growing seasons.

“In a scenario where farmers here would not be able to use glyphosate, we would be looking at a two-pronged attack on the Irish tillage sector resulting in lower yields and higher production costs,” he said.

Ireland would also be harder hit due to our wetter climate.

Professor Burke said glyphosate has helped change farming practices and reduced the need for ploughing soils which has improved sustainability by allowing min-till systems.

He added that the herbicide has a “strong safety profile”.

IFA president Joe Healy said the science was there to “back up” glyphosate. “It beggars belief to think such a necessary item is so near to los­ing its licence,” he said, adding it was also used effectively in reseeding.

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